I had an intro here, but I deleted it on grounds of this being self-explanatory.
The Obsidian and Blood Trilogy:
* Servant of the Underworld
* Harbinger of the Storm
* Master of the House of Darts
all by Aliette de Bodard
Murder mysteries set in a world where everything the Aztecs believed in is real. I powered through this trilogy in two days, which should tell you that I loved them. At least in this case that’s what it should tell you.
The setting is brilliant. The characters are complex and interesting. The writing is very accessible and the style is clear — I mention that because I came into it wondering if the unusual setting meant the book would be more difficult to get into, but I’ve found most standard Tolkienesque fantasy harder to get into than this.
My main issue is that the three books really don’t seem like enough for this world and these stories. They really don’t. Yes, there’s a strong thematic arc, strong character arcs, and the plot is sufficiently resolved… but it doesn’t feel like enough. I’d love to read a sequel.
The Chaos by Nalo Hopkinson
An apparently bog-standard urban fantasy that isn’t remotely bog-standard. The setting is excellent, with various folkloric elements combined with original fantastic elements, including one of the best otherworldly pseudo-hallucination sequences I’ve read. Really neat characters who manage to be realistically teenager-y and flawed yet sympathetic and likeable. Lots of queer stuff! Which is even more awesome in a YA book. The frank discussion of sexuality is also a plus.
I actually read this one a few weeks ago now, but it stuck in my head enough that I wanted to mention it. It’s really good, just be forewarned that it’s way too short and as far as I know there’s no sequel coming.
As with the Obsidian & Blood trilogy, I would love to be proven wrong — and I’d probably be more okay with The Chaos’ short length retroactively if a sequel were showing up.
Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone
Loved this one too. Another murder mystery — solving the death of a god. First book of a trilogy. More great world-building. Technically, this is high fantasy, set in a (steampunk-ish?) secondary world as it is. But it’s more down-to-earth (surprisingly), more realistic, and has a much better plot and a much better protagonist than the vast majority of high fantasy. She (the protagonist, not the plot) is a high-powered wizard-type (which is always my favorite) and a lawyer. Yeah, this is a fantasy legal thriller. It works really well.
This one also definitely needed a sequel… which Google tells me is being released in four days, holy shit! ….Admittedly neither the plot summary nor the new protagonist really interest me (no mention of the old protagonist — I liked her! and her mentor! where are they?), but I enjoyed the first book enough that I’m definitely going to snap up the second one.
World War Z by Max Brooks
Zombie apocalypse. This one I basically read because a friend of mine is reading it.
The book earns extra points for trying to cover many major countries across the world, first off. Although I was weirded out by the special emphasis of South Africa… of ALL the countries in Africa to pick. Eh. And the portrayals of other countries are not un-problematic… but now this is sounding like a backhanded compliment.
Also, extra points for having more than one woman involved in the military (as it’s a military-centric novel) and more than one woman playing a key role in the plot. Honestly that should be taken for granted, but since they can’t be, it still earns plus points.
Still, though, there aren’t that many female characters, which is kind of weird. I don’t think it gets close to the 25% mark. Which I fail to understand. I mean, it’s cool that you’ve got more than one or two good female characters, but was that really all you had ‘room’ for? Also, no mention of female leaders that I remember. Eh.
The book makes some other unfortunate choices and iffy parts that I won’t get into here. There are also some parts that are just very, very silly. On the other hand, other parts are really creative and clearly demonstrate how much research was put into most of the book.
Here’s another thing, though:
Why do so many people love zombies so much?
I just do not get it. I cannot help but find zombies extremely boring. Mindless hordes of walking dead things… the mindless hordes *I’m* afraid of sling hate speech and wield social control and vote hateful people into political office and restrict rights and invade bedrooms and kill brown people and police genitalia and women’s bodies.
Zombies just eat you. Really inefficiently. That’s much, much less terrifying.
I thought World War Z was pretty okay — sometimes compelling, sometimes meh, sometimes off-putting — but perhaps I would have liked it better if I actually liked zombies at all.
These were all originally going to be just a few lines each. Looks like that plan went out the window.
Other books I’ve read & re-read in the past few months, but not recently:
* The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins — this was a re-read, and I’m a pretty huge fan of this book. Such a compelling voice! Still haven’t read the sequels or seen the movie. Need to do that.
* Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn — I’m a huge fan of this author. This book was uncomfortable to read, and not at all my favorite subject matter, but it’s just so goddamn well-written. Flynn never ceases to be fantastic.
* [REDACTED TITLES] — two fantasy books in a new series, titles redacted because while I enjoyed them, I thought the writing was honestly pretty bad, and while I really liked some elements, others were kind of shit. But this is an up-and-coming fantasy author, which is a position I want to be in someday soon, so I can’t bring myself to dump too hard on their book, even mixed with praise.
* [REDACTED TITLE] — generic thriller with above-average writing, which I read based on the opening. Way too much damsel-in-distress. REALLY shitty main character. Initially compelling assassin character who gets more generic as the story proceeds, which is a bummer.
* Octavia Butler’s Patternist series: Patternmaster, Mind of My Mind, Survivor, Wild Seed, Clay’s Ark — this is a re-read of a series I’d never totally finished, including one of the two books that inspired me to write speculative fiction as a kid: Wild Seed. (The other being The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe; much more expected.) Even more brilliant than I remembered. (Also a huge fan of Octavia Butler, in case that wasn’t clear…) I wish there were more entries to the series. Actually I mainly wish that Butler was immortal and hadn’t died and could write forever. 😦
* Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke — Too long. Loved it. Worth the read. I spent the whole read thinking it was too long to truly pay off at the end, and I was wrong. Oh, was I wrong. Holy shit.